CDC Logo

BC Conservation Data Centre: Species Summary

Dicamptodon tenebrosus
Coastal Giant Salamander

Scientific Name: Dicamptodon tenebrosus Baird and Girard, 1852
English Name: Coastal Giant Salamander
English Name Synonyms: Pacific Giant Salamander
Classification / Taxonomy
Scientific Name - Concept Reference: Collins, J. T. 1990. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles. 3rd ed. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular No. 19. 41 pp.
Classification Level: Species
Taxonomy Comments: Dicamptodon tenebrosus (Baird and Girard) regarded as a distinct species by Good (A89GOO01BCCA).
Common Name:
SCOMNAME changed from Pacific Giant Salamander to Coastal Giant Salamander to follow RIC. Jan, 2003. ECR
Species Group: Vertebrate Animal
Species Code: A-DITE
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Caudata Dicamptodontidae
Conservation Status / Legal Designation
Global Status: G5 (Nov 2003)
Provincial Status: S2S3 (Dec 2016)
BC List: Blue
Provincial FRPA list: Y (May 2004)  
Provincial Wildlife Act:
COSEWIC Status: Threatened (May 2014)
SARA Schedule: 1  -  Threatened (Jun 2003)
General Status Canada: 1 - At Risk (2005)
Ecology & Life History
General Description:
Global Reproduction Comments: Breeds in both spring and fall. Lays clutch of 100-200 eggs in spring. Female attends eggs until hatching. At an elevation of 275 m in Oregon, a clutch with limb-bud-stage embryos was found in mid-July; hatching occurred by mid-September (Jones et al. 1990). Larvae metamorphose usually in 18-24 months, but sometimes they become sexually mature in the larval stage (Nussbaum et al. 1983, Stebbins 1985).
Migration Characteristics:
(Global / Provincial)
    Local Migrant:
    Distant Migrant:
    Within Borders Migrant:
N /
Y /
N /
na /
Global Migration Comments: Migrates between aquatic breeding and terrestrial nonbreeding habitats.
(Type / Subtype / Dependence)
Forest / Conifer Forest - Moist/wet / Facultative - frequent use
Riparian / Riparian Forest / Obligate
Stream/River / Stream/River / Obligate
Global Habitat Comments: Larvae and paedomorphic adults usually inhabit clear, cool or cold, well-oxygenated streams and often take cover under stones (Parker 1991); aquatic stages also occur in some mountain lakes and ponds. Larvae may occupy wet sub-benthic habitat (interstitial spaces among substrate particles) of intermittent streams when water is not flowing on the surface (Feral et al. 2005). Metamorphosed adults are found in humid forests under rocks and logs, etc., near mountain streams or rocky shores of mountain lakes (Stebbins 1985).

Eggs are attached to logs or rocks in creeks (Nussbaum and Clothier 1973, Jones et al. 1990).
Food Habits: Carnivore: Adult, Immature
Invertivore: Adult, Immature
Global Food Habits Comments: Larvae feed on a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates as well as terrestrial invertebrates that fall into the water (Parker 1994) and some small vertebrates (e.g., fishes, tadpoles, other larval salamanders). Adults eat terrestrial invertebrates, also small snakes, shrews, mice, and salamanders, etc.
Global Phenology: Circadian: Adult, Immature
Hibernates/aestivates: Adult, Immature
Global Phenology Comments: In northern California, larvae were active on the streambed surface at night, inactive and under cover during daylight (Parker 1994).
Provincial Phenology:
(1st half of month/
2nd half of month)
Colonial Breeder: N
Length(cm)/width(cm)/Weight(g): 30/ /
Elevation (m) (min / max): Global: 
Endemic: N
Global Range Comment: Southern British Columbia (Chilliwack River drainage) south through western Washington and western Oregon to northwestern California (Good 1989; Farr, 1989 COSEWIC report; Petranka 1998).
Distribution UnitOccurrence StatusOrigin Status  
Biogeoclimatic Unit   
CWH - Coastal Western HemlockConfident or certainNative or natural  
Ministry of Environment Region   
2- Lower MainlandConfident or certainNative or natural 
Forest District   
Chilliwack Forest District (DCK)Confident or certainNative or natural 
Regional District   
Fraser Valley (FVRD) Confident or certain Native or natural  
ChilliwackConfident or certainNative or natural 
Regional District Map
This is not a range map.

This species is known to occur somewhere in the shaded regional district(s). The actual range of the species within each regional district may be much smaller.
Authors / Contributors
Global Information Author: Hammerson, G.
Last Updated: May 06, 2005
Provincial Information Author:
Last Updated:
References and Related Literature
Anderson, J.D. 1968. Dicamptodon, D. ensatus. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 76:1-2.
B.C. Ministry of Environment. Recovery Planning in BC. B.C. Minist. Environ. Victoria, BC.
Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 719 pp.
Blood, D.A. 1993. Pacific Giant Salamander. B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Wildl. Branch. 6pp.
British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. 2004. Coastal Giant Salamander in Accounts and measures for managing identified wildlife. British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Victoria, BC. 52pp.
Daugherty, C.H., F.W. Allendorf, W.W. Dunlap and K.L. Knudsen. 1983. Systematic implications of geographic patterns of genetic variation in the genus Dicamptodon. Copeia 1983:679-691.
Good, D. A. 1989. Hybridization and cryptic species in DICAMPTODON (Caudata: Dicamptodontidae). Evolution 43:728-744.
Green, D.M., and R.W. Campbell. 1984. The Amphibians of British Columbia. Royal B.C. Mus. Handb. No. 45. 101pp.
Johnston, B.E. 2000. Terrestrial Pacific Giant Salamanders: Natural History and Response to Forest Practices. Pp. 303-304 in L.M. Darling, ed. 2000. Proc. Conf. on the Biology and Manage. Species and Habitats at Risk, Kamloops, B.C., 15-19 Feb.,1999. Vol. 1; B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC, and Univ. College of the Cariboo, Kamloops, BC. 490pp.
Jones, L. L. C., R. B. Bury, and P. S. Corn. 1990. Field observation of the development of a clutch of Pacific giant salamander (DICAMPTODON TENEBROSUS) eggs. Northwestern Naturalist 71:93-94.
Nussbaum, R. A. 1976. Geographic variation and systematics of salamanders of the genus DICAMPTODON Strauch (Ambystomatidae). Univ. Michigan Mus. Zool. Misc. Publ. 149:1-94.
Nussbaum, R.A. 1969. Nests and eggs of the Pacific giant salamander, Dicamptodon ensatus (Escholtz). Herpetologica 25(4):257-262.
Nussbaum, R.A. and G.R. Clothier. 1973. Population structure, growth, and size of larval Dicamptodon ensatus (Erscholtz). Northwest Science 47(4):218-227.
Nussbaum, R.A., E.D. Brodie, Jr., and R.M. Storm. 1983. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. University Press of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho. 332 pp.
Ovaska, K, S. Lennart, C Engelstoft, L. Matthias, E. Wind and J. MacGarvie. 2004. Best Management Practices for Amphibians and Reptiles in Urban and Rural Environments in British Columbia. Ministry of Water Land and Air Protection, Ecosystems Standards and Planning, Biodiversity Branch
Pacific Giant Salamander Recovery Team. 2010. Recovery strategy for the Pacific Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus) in British Columbia. Prepared for the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria, BC. 42pp.
Parker, M. S. 1991. Relationship between cover availability and larval Pacific giant salamander density. J. Herpetol. 25:355-357.
Parker, M. S. 1994. Feeding ecology of stream-dwelling Pacific giant salamander larvae (DICAMPTODON TENEBROSUS). Copeia 1994:705-718.
Stebbins, R. C. 1985a. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Second edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. xiv + 336 pp.

Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for definitions of the data fields used in this summary report.

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 2005. Species Summary: Dicamptodon tenebrosus. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: (accessed Jul 15, 2019).